Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Suck Less at Online Dating

Having just moved to a new area, I don’t know anyone. ‘However shall I get to meet new people?’ I ask myself. An online dating site is the answer, of course.

I have been a member of okcupid since 2004, though I have never seriously used it for dating purposes. The only time I met anyone from the site was in college and they invited me to a party, so of course I went. Nothing ever happened, other than I made a new facebook friend.

Where I live now is a pretty rural area. The nearest city has a population of around 30,000 people. Coming from Baltimore, where I’ve lived for the last two years, 30,000 is nothing. It’s not a situation I am unfamiliar with, as I grew up in rural Southern Oregon, but I’ve enjoyed living in Baltimore. The night life, the busyness and the endless opportunities were something I came to enjoy. Moving to a much more rural area has been a little bit of a culture shock.

So I turned to okcupid. I figured it would be a good way to meet new people and at least find some entertainment. It might also take my mind of my ex, an added bonus! Needless to say, in a town of 30,000, the pickings were slim. I don’t feel like my standards for being interested in starting a conversation with someone online are all that high. A flattering picture or two, a profile without major grammatical errors and the ability to type full words. Is that really too much to ask for? Apparently. There were a few that made it past my rigorous first round of inspections though. I decided to be bold and send several of them a message. I thought “hey, these guys should be THRILLED that a female is taking the initiative and messaging THEM”.
I was somewhat disappointed by the responses I got. I was also not too thrilled about some of the first contact messages I received from other users. After a conversation with my bestie, I was convinced to share.

Ariana: we should compile a list of men's messages on our blog and then dissect them.
"What not to say"
me: lol, seriously.
me: That makes me sounds like a self centered bitch but it's how you keep a conversation going.
You ask questions, they answer and then ask questions, you answer and then ask more questions.
If you don't ask questions, you just stare awkwardly at each other or, if it's online, you don't get a message back.
Ariana: haha
me: *cue video game music*
Ariana: i heard the death music from super mario 3
me: I am now compiling info to use on an okcupid blog post. “How to suck less at online dating.”
okcupid user:
I'm tired of trying to come up with a good attention grabber sooo....
'ello there. I'm Aaron.. lol.

Ultimately, you couldn’t even bother to come up with something interesting to say, so you just told me you couldn’t come up with something interesting to say. This tells me that you are either lazy, or not very intelligent. Neither of these things might be true, but I have very little to base my opinion of you on. Thus, if you even get a response, I will be slightly sarcastic.

me: Hi Aaron, I'm Kristen.

I'll agree that it's always a pain to come up with something to say, when you are introducing yourself to someone out of the blue. I think that's why pick up lines were invented...but I'm not sure how well those really work.
So what is it about golf that you enjoy so much? I mean, I enjoy walking as a form of exercise, but stopping to hit a ball every so often would try my patience. Mini golf, on the other hand, is a sport I can get behind, as long as there are ridiculous courses involving pirates or some sort of jungle-like terrain.

Please note that my reference to this users liking for golf was taken from his profile. Thus, I have made it clear that I read his profile AND I have asked about something he is interested in. This is how you make conversation.

The following is a message I sent to a user. I was intrigued by their profile and so I took the initiative to message them.
I never know how to start a conversation like this. It's like being a telemarketer and cold calling people; I could never do it. Anyway, I liked that you started your profile off with outing yourself as a gamer geek. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with my own geekery, but I'm working on it. I also have to admit that I liked your screen name; The Fifth Element is definitely one of my all time favorite movies.

While it was hard for me to come up with something to say, I made a comparison to something in hopes of being personable, instead of being lazy. I commented on something from the user’s profile that could potentially spark future conversation and then I complimented them on their choice of user name. Pretty basic stuff.

ok cupid user:

It will definitely cull a bit more to just get my geekness out right away, though i tested more as an average joe on the geek/nerd test.

I know exactly what you mean about not knowing what to say. I usually try to work with something in the profile. Like for you, i would have issued a challenge to your belching prowess and/or commended you for your favorite movie.

As for my screen name, i was at a loss so i went with something i liked. I've gotten a few nods for the reference so i think i choose wisely.
Thank you for asking me absolutely ZERO questions. We’ve really got a great conversation going now!

If a female takes the time to actually send you a message, it means she is interested. If you want to keep the conversation going, make sure you let her know that. At least this user gets kudos for letting me know they read my profile. I did actually send a response in the hopes of again trying to get a conversation going, but having nothing to go off of makes it far less likely that someone will respond.

The following message was sent to me. I do try to check out the profiles of the users who message me, unless I think it’s a generic line they use on everyone, at which point I delete the message.

okcupid user:

Hey what's up u seem pretty cool and ur really beautiful ;) I live right outside fruitland so maybe we can chill sometime

Ok, this user already violated my ‘being able to type full words’ expectation, but he made sure to include a location near to me so I did feel like he at least looked at my profile. I figured that I could at least return the favor.
From okcupid user’s profile:
Im very blunt at times, at times ill roll a blunt lol but i prefer a bowl. Im the kinda guy whod rather hit a bong than a bottle. I dont like bullshit, lies, or theives! And i dont believe in 'FWB' or no strings attached! If u dont have the strings then ur ass missed out on the whole picture! Those strings are what sew the fabric of love baby! Lmao its funny but true! Ah but i just wanna meet a girl whos just like me, honest down 2 earth trustworthy loyal funny and above all else 420 friendly! ;P

There went any chance of me responding to this user’s message. Grammatical errors, inability to type full words and a new addendum to my list of expectations, references to illegal drugs on an online profile. It’s like people who used to have marijuana pictures plastered all over their myspace pages. It’s just so god damn tacky. I don’t care if you use drugs, but that’s not really something you should be posting for all to see on the Internet and it’s not how you should introduce yourself, right off the bat. Either you are a complete idiot OR your main goal in life is to be high. Neither is something I am interested in.
What have we learned from all this?
1. If a female takes the time to send you a message, it means she is interested. Go big or go home, son.
2. Proper grammar is a must. Even if you are AWFUL at typing and spelling and using commas, it doesn’t matter. Online profiles are some one's first impression of you. Make a good first impression and have someone proofread your profile, otherwise you sound like a complete idiot.
3. References to illegal drug usage on public sites is always in poor form.
4. If some one's profile impresses you enough to actually send them a message, make sure you ask questions so you create the basis for an actual conversation. It’s hard enough to talk to people you don’t know, without having to struggle to find something to talk about. Be well versed in their profile and ask them about it. People really do love to talk about themselves and it’s a great way to get to know each other a little better.
Do be aware though, if all someone does is talk about themselves and never asks questions about you, they might actually be self centered.

Having a conversation doesn’t have to be hard. Just be a thoughtful and intelligent person and most importantly, be yourself!